- Armendáriz, Montxo
- (1949- )Montxo Armedáriz's career as a film director was launched thanks to producer Elias Querejeta's support and the new funding schemes introduced by the Basque autonomous government in the 1980s. This was very appropriate, since his early shorts had had a distinctively Basque flavor, with a deep concern for the landscapes and cultural aspects of his land. The last of them, Carboneros de Navarra (Coal Traders of Navarra, 1981), was the origin of his breakthrough film Tasio (1984), a story covering three generations of a rural family. Tasio, the protagonist, is intended as a Basque everyman, a rebellious poacher who lives immersed in the mountains and lush forests that characterize the region's landscapes. He becomes involved in the historical processes taking place in Spain, mostly as a victim, but always preserving his dignity and cultural identity.The film also showcased key aspects of films funded by autonomous regions: it was originally spoken in the Basque language (euskera), and a substantial proportion of the team were born in the region (following guidelines set up by the regional government to guarantee funding); it dealt with historical and cultural events; and it contributed to reinforce a traditional Basque identity. Unlike other regional projects elsewhere, Tasio became a success in the rest of Spain, too. For his next project, the thriller 27 horas (27 Hours, 1986), Armendáriz continued articulating a sense of cultural identity, although this time he moved to the city and dealt with more contemporary issues: drugs, youth, and unemployment.In 1990, his perspective changed completely. With Las cartas de Alou (Alou's Letters, 1990), he adopted a semi-documentary approach to tell the story of a very different everyman figure: a black illegal immigrant seeking a livelihood in Spain and overcoming obstacles that were central to the experience of other foreigners in similar situations. The film was bold, unadorned, and identified with Alou's uncompromising perspective by introducing in a voice-over the letters the immigrant man wrote home, in which he explained, sometimes baffled, sometimes insightful, his experience of his adopted country.Armendáriz took his time before directing another project, Historias del Kronen (Stories from the Kronen, 1995), based on a literary source about disaffected, wealthy youth in Madrid, which touched again on drugs and social problems. The film was a great box-office success and allowed him to move on to a more serene, intimate story, Secretos del corazón (Secrets of the Heart, 1997), set in the aftermath of the Civil War. It told the story of a village, with its secrets and denials, as seen by a child. The follow-up was Obaba (2005), a return to familiar terrain, both in its reflection on Basque identity and the portrayal of rural life. It was almost inevitable that Armendáriz, with his interest in the lives of ordinary people and his identification with Basque historical traditions, produce this version of one of the masterworks of Basque literature by Bernardo Atxaga. In Obaba, Armendáriz weaves a rural tapestry of lives in a "mythical Spanish land," introducing elements of magical realism in a number of vaguely interrelated stories.
Historical dictionary of Spanish cinema. Alberto Mira. 2010.